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Physician IT

Quick uptake of electronic medical records in Nova Scotia

HALIFAX – One year after being launched, the program to computerize Nova Scotia’s physician practices has won over 27% of the province’s primary care doctors.

To date, there are 521 users in 60 clinics who are registered for the Primary Healthcare Information Management (PHIM) program and are preparing to implement the electronic patient record.

“It’s a lot of work in the first months getting set up, but it’s worth it,” said Dr. David Martell, a physician at the Lunenburg Medical Centre. “With electronic records, I am able to get accurate details on my patients’ health status; medication lists are accurate and legible. The automated-recall features allow me to proactively take care of my patients’ health maintenance needs. I would never go back to paper records.”

The program has been fueled by $4 million from Health Canada’s Primary Health Care Transition Fund. The project is being implemented in clinics across the province by teams from district health authorities with support from Nightingale Informatix, of Markham, Ont., along with Halifax-based Dymaxion Research Limited and Concertia Technologies Inc.

With this web-based electronic patient record, all patient health information is stored at the Department of Health’s data centre, which is also used to store patient information for the majority of hospitals in Nova Scotia. Patient information is protected, and access is only given to providers who have a registered login and security code.

“We are pleased to be part of such a pioneering and successful project in Nova Scotia,” said Sam Chebib (pictured), President and CEO of Nightingale.

“The dedication and hard work of the Department of Health, Regional Health Authorities and the Nightingale team, as well as the physicians and their support staff, has been crucial to the success of the initiative,” said Chebib. “The program has seen adoption rates reach 27% in the first year. Our commitment to helping the physicians of Nova Scotia further enhance patient care remains our top priority. Nova Scotia is a great example for all of Canada.”

Health Minister Chris d’Entremont said the system will improve the way patient information is stored, used, and disclosed by Nova Scotia healthcare providers.

“This system will improve the quality and safety of patient care and allow providers and patients to make safer, faster, and better treatment decisions,” said Mr. d’Entremont. “We’re allowing doctors to spend more time with their patients, and are providing Nova Scotians with healthcare service as close to home as possible.”

Through its Primary Health Care Information Management program, the Department of Health is working with district health authorities to implement the first province-wide electronic patient record system to improve quality of care and access to treatment for Nova Scotians.

With this system, clinic charts will be stored electronically, instead of on paper. Electronic patient records minimize errors, efficiently generate referral letters, complete forms much quicker, and easily bill and code diagnoses.

Connecting primary health-care settings with hospital information systems allows care providers to access lab, diagnostic imaging, and other patient information quickly and accurately.

An EResults system – which links to lab and diagnostic imaging records in the provincial health information system to the Electronic Medical Record – is currently being piloted at six clinics.

“This is great news for the patients and physicians in our district. It will certainly enhance patient care by giving physicians quicker access to information for decision-making,” said South Shore Health CEO Kevin McNamara.